This is how Germans spell their names on the phone

Okay, imagine you are sick at home and you need to call the doc to make an appointment. :face_with_thermometer:
You can hear other patients in the background, apparently they have a busy day. :breast_feeding:t4: 🧑🏻‍🔧 :raising_hand_man:t6: 🧑🏽‍🔬 :man_office_worker:t3:

You just told the receptionist your name and then you hear this:

„Ich habe Sie nicht richtig verstanden. Können Sie das bitte buchstabieren?“ :woman_shrugging:t2:
(“I didn’t get that. Could you spell it out for me please?”)

Now’s your time to shine: Use the new German Buchstabiertafel!

It’s fairly easy to use. After each letter of your name (or your street, etc) you say “wie” (like) followed by the city that stands for the corresponding letter.

Toby - T wie Tübingen - O wie Oldenburg - B wie Berlin - Y wie …Ypsilon :thinking:

No, Ypsilon is not a German city (there is non that starts with a Y), but it’s hard to confuse with other letters, so it is absolutely fine to just say “Üp-see-lon”.

The German B and W on the other hand can be easily confused, but it can’t get any clearer than “W wie Wuppertal”! :wink:

In the old Buchstabiertafel we mostly used Names. You might have heard somebody spell their name or address like this: “A wie Anton - B wie Berta, C wie Cäsar“, …

The problem with this is that names go out of style and may become unknown to newer generations. City names always stay the same!

So save this little cheat sheet to your phone, or print it out and put it on your fridge! It might come in handy the next time you have to spell something out on the phone!

Btw, wouldn’t this make a great bucket list for a round trip through Germany?

  • Have you visited any of the cities you’d need to spell your name for?
  • Do you use something similar in your native language?
  • And have you heard of other tricks when it comes to spelling something out on the phone in German?

Using city names to spell out is a very cool idea! :raised_hands: :star: Thanks Toby!


Let’s hope that everyone knows how to write „Quickborn" and „Vogtland" :sweat_smile:


Not sure how to pronounce the cities? Listen!
Die Aussprache aller Städte hier:


This is very useful :blush: I always have to spell my last name and I think people will understand me more if I use cities of their own country :sweat_smile:.

Actually, I lived in the city I need for the “s” in my name: Stuttgart!

I worked for a call center in Canada and in order to know if their names and addresses were correct I used to use animals and objects to spell. People were not that good with geography sometimes :sweat_smile:.


Thank you, @Janina! I’m so glad my name doesn’t have any X, W or Z :grimacing:.


My cities (Janina): Jena, Augsburg, Nürnberg, Iserlohn

The N appears two times in my name and I do live in Nürnberg! :heart:

Wie buchstabiert man Janina? Hör mir zu! :slight_smile:


Instead of spelling my German name here in Ecuador (which always causes confusion), I just show my ID and the issue is fixed :sweat_smile: :thinking:


:sweat_smile: But what if you’re on the phone @SKrausser? Do you use cities of Ecuador to spell? :thinking:

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People here generally use names, animals or places (like provinces) as we did it in Germany many, many decades ago.
“A de Ana”
“B grande de Burro”
“C de Chimborazo (o Carlos)”


It would be a good challenge for your summer vacation to visit at least some of those cities. I don’t know much about Düsseldorf, Jena or Schwerin, but it could be a good idea for a one-day-trip!

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Great and interesting @Toby I didn"t know this. I only know the old fashioned name list for spelling a word on the phone


Thanks for the audio examples @Janina! :raised_hands: That’s super helpful!

In Italy, they mostly use city names too (N come Napoli, P come Pisa) and a student from Portugal told me they normally use whatever word comes to mind (but they have an official one, I checked :wink:). For us Germans, I guess this would be waaay too flakey! :sweat_smile: